Ex-sheriff gets 6 years in prison over drug dealer bribes

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — A former Mississippi sheriff who admitted to extorting bribes from a drug dealer was sentenced Thursday to six years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills also ordered former Tallahatchie County Sheriff William Brewer to forfeit $42,000 and serve three years of supervised release.

"William Brewer violated his oath, dishonoring himself, his badge, and every honest lawman who wears a badge," U.S. Attorney William "Chad" Lamar said in a statement. "The citizens of our state and Tallahatchie County deserved better.

Brewer, 58, pleaded guilty in November to one count of extorting a bribe relating to $6,500 in cash he took from the drug dealer in June. The FBI converted the unnamed drug dealer into an informant and recorded the informant telling Brewer of fake plans to rob a methamphetamine dealer. The informant later delivered $3,500 more in FBI-tracked bribes.

But prosecutors have said that was far from Brewer's only illegal act and accused the lawman of having a 15-year illegal partnership with the unnamed drug dealer. They said the dealer robbed other dealers of drugs and money, giving stolen money and proceeds from drug sales to the sheriff of the rural Mississippi Delta county, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of Memphis, Tennessee.

The informant estimated he robbed drug dealers at least 50 times over the years, taking and later selling methamphetamine and various forms of cocaine. The informant told the FBI that Brewer continued to shelter his illegal activities when he found out a few years ago that the informant had gone into a more traditional form of drug dealing, selling meth bought from illegal suppliers. During this stage of the relationship, the FBI said the informant was paying Brewer $500 to $600 every two weeks from his drug-dealing profits.

Once the informant was working for the FBI, he planned one last deal with agents listening in. The FBI alleges the informant told Brewer of a fictional plan to rob someone of 9 to 10 kilograms (20 to 22 pounds) of methamphetamine, discussing the plan with Brewer in person and in recorded telephone calls in June. At the FBI's direction, after falsely claiming he had completed the robbery, the informant paid Brewer $10,000 in cash bribes. The FBI says the informant made three trips to Brewer's house in Oakland between June 21 and July 26, each time leaving FBI-photographed $10, $20 and $100 bills in a bucket in Brewer's barn at the sheriff's direction.

Brewer has been jailed in Mason, Tennessee, since October, when federal officials alleged he was trying to intimidate a witness. Defense attorney Kevin Horan wrote in a motion filed Thursday that Brewer was cleared of those charges, but Mills denied Horan's request to let Brewer out of jail for at least three weeks before he goes to federal prison.

Brewer's wife, sister and stepdaughter were among those who made written pleas to Mills seeking leniency.